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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

326 The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity
innovation. St. Athanasius brought some Egyptian monks with
him when he visited Rome, but they were regarded with strong
dislike as specimens of oriental fanatics. The first Roman mon-
astery was established by Sixtus III (432-40), who gave some
monks care of the cemetery ad Catacumbas on the Appian Way;
then his successor Leo (440-61) attached a monastery to the
basilica of St. Peter, no doubt for the daily performance of the
offices, presumably not to take over the pastoral duties for which
the parochial clergy were already appointed.
The association of ascetes with great basilicas where they
acted as a kind of cathedral choir was a departure from the older
monasticism: the Spanish lady Silvia found it already established
in Jerusalem when she visited that city in 385-8. According to
the older Egyptian practice the monks recited some of the daily
services privately, others in community, but only amongst them-
selves; there was no provision for a lay congregation. Every
Saturday and Sunday they assembled in church for the celebra-
tion of the Eucharist, and of course a priest had to celebrate. If
the priest were a member of the community, still, as a monk he
held no specially favoured position: it was by no means a matter
of course that the abbot or prior was a priest. The original
coenobium was a lay institution which at most maintained a
priest for occasional use. In a sense, therefore, the monastic
movement was non-ecclesiastical, it stood apart from the official
hierarchy; if a priest wanted to enter a monastery he had to do
so like the humblest neophyte and had to go through his train-
ing step by step like any other: no special favour was shown him
because he was a priest. Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that
a group of ascetes attached to a great basilica was rather a
departure from primitive monasticism. But these basilican
monks gave to the Church: they introduced into the general
life of the community the daily services of Matins, Vespers,
Compline, &c., services purely monastic in origin and, because
monastic, needing the presence of no priest. Such services,